SHELTER Scotland and Glasgow Housing Association have joined forces to prevent evictions for rent arrears – with the launch of a new advice service.
Following the launch of the project in May, 30 households who were at risk of eviction have already been advised on how to repay their rent arrears and keep their homes.
Says a spokesperson: “The project, run by GHA and facilitated by Shelter Scotland, is initially open to the housing association’s 2,850 tenants in the Pollok area of the city.
“The service provides advice on housing, money and debt from two specialist advisors based in Glasgow.
“Tenants with arrears and at risk of eviction are referred by GHA to the advice service. Manageable repayment schemes for tenants at risk of eviction are then identified and put in to place.
“Advice is also available to those in early arrears on how to manage their personal finances and avoid getting further in to debt, with advisors undertaking home visits as well as offering advice over the phone.”
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“Everyone needs to pay their rent but where there are rent problems there are solutions, like looking at debts and manageable repayment plans.
“Eviction should be a last resort, and the launch of this project ensures that GHA tenants are offered the right advice for their individual circumstances, giving them every opportunity to repay arrears, avoid eviction and stay on top of their rent.
“Keeping people in their homes should be a priority for all landlords – social and private. We commend GHA’s commitment to providing a practical way forward in reducing evictions for rent arrears.”
The advisors working on the service liaise closely with GHA’s Housing Department and Welfare Rights Office, as well as Glasgow City Council’s Housing Benefit Department, to offer up to date impartial advice to GHA tenants.
Hazel Young, GHA’s south area director, said:
“Our approach of early intervention and support has proved very successful in dramatically cutting arrears and reducing the number of court actions and evictions over the past few years.
“Our housing staff meet with tenants who are having difficulty at the earliest opportunity and identify what support they need to get back on track.
“GHA also has specialist welfare benefits officers who help tenants manage their finances, set up payment plans or access any benefits they may be entitled to. We look forward to working with Shelter Scotland to build on this success.”
The spokesperson continued: “Shelter Scotland research shows that eviction action is still a very common way for social landlords to deal with rent arrears, constituting 95 per cent of all eviction actions.
“The charity believes that eviction can be an ineffective tool for dealing with debt and is rarely the most constructive option for either landlord or tenant. There is evidence to show that the costs associated with eviction can be significantly more than the arrears they aim to recover.”
Anne-Marie* (45) has been a GHA tenant for over four years and lives in a flat with her partner and young daughter in the Pollok area of Glasgow.
After being made redundant from her job as an admin assistant, Anne-Marie took another job but with reduced hours and lower pay.
With a reduced income, Anne-Marie and her partner started to struggle with their bills and got in to arrears with the housing association.
Anne-Marie says: “It was a really stressful time. After I lost my job, we started getting in to arrears. It kept getting worse and we felt like there was nothing we could do. Pretty quickly we were £1,800 in arrears and, with rising costs of food and bills, we had little money to pay our rent, let alone start thinking about paying back the arrears.
“GHA got in touch with us to say that they had a new advice service that could help. They referred us to Shelter Scotland who were helping others in our situation.
“The advisor came out to see us and took time to understand our situation. They identified benefits and child tax credits we were entitled to and were able to get us council tax rebates. They even helped with funding for a school uniform for the new school term.
“It all added up and we were able to pay a big chunk – over a third – off the arrears in one go. The Shelter Scotland advisors also advised us about setting up a repayment plan and we now pay back £60 per week towards the arrears, which is making a big difference.
“The help we got from GHA and Shelter Scotland lifted a weight off our minds. We’re now paying back the arrears and staying on top of monthly rent.”
* Name changed
Notes to Editors:
1. Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity. Shelter Scotland believes that everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
2. Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) is one of the largest social landlords in the UK, with around 44,000 tenants and 25,000 factored homeowners across Glasgow
3. Spokespeople are available for interview, telephone the media office on 0844 515 2442.
4. For more information about Shelter Scotland visit www.shelter.org.uk For more information about GHA visit www.gha.org.uk/
5. Follow Shelter Scotland on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/shelterinscotland Twitter – http://twitter.com/shelterscotland
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Contact: Sabina Kadic-Mackenzie
Phone: 0844 515 2442